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Professor Kate Purcell

Academic Profile

Kate Purcell returned to the IER on 1st September 2006, having spent seven years as Professor of Employment Studies and Director of the Employment Studies Research Unit at Bristol Business School, the University of the West of England. She had spent two previous periods as a researcher at the Institute, from 1986-89 and 1996-99, and remained an Associate Fellow for most of the intervening periods. She retired at the end of December 2012 but continues to work part-time at the Institute.

With a background in sociology, she specialises in investigating the interface between labour markets and organisations, with a focus on changing employment boundaries. At the core of her work is an interest in gender segmentation in employment and gender differences in career development, but increasingly, her research interests have been focused on change in occupational structure and in particular, the impact of higher education expansion on the labour market. She directed Futuretrack, the most ambitious investigation of the relationship between higher education and employment ever undertaken, sponsored by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU): a longitudinal survey that tracked 2005 and 2006 UK higher education applicants from the point of applying for full-time courses, through their higher education experience and into employment. Her current research - the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded Precatious Pathways into Employment for Young People? - extends this interest in transitions between education and employment to encompass young people who have not proceed to higher education and, with colleagues, is examining the youth labour market in the Midlands from the perspectives of young people themselves, education and employment stakeholders, employers and policymakers. Her comparative internationalresearch work includes the recent ESRC-funded 'Pathfinder' project which assessed the impact of higher education expansion on economic restructuring, occupational change and access to opportunities in Brazil and India.

Kate has conducted a series of longitudinal studies of graduate transitions from higher education to employment and case study investigations of both graduates and employers, funded by a range of sponsors including HECSU, the ESRC, the Council for Industry and Higher Education and successive UK government departments responsible for employment, higher education and skills. She has published and lectured widely on her research, both nationally and internationally and served in a consultancy or advisory capacity to a range of labour market, research and higher educational stakeholder organisations.

Her main research interests are the impact of higher education expansion on the labour market in the UK, change in the occupational structure; gender segmentation in employment; gender differences in career development; employment flexibility and non standard work, and development of more effective mixed-methods research. Consequently, her current project (colloquially known as the Paths2Work project), is an appropriate final project, since it includes consideration of all these areas.

Current projects

All projects

Selected publications

  • Elias, P., Purcell, K., Atfield, G., Kispeter, E., Day, R. and Poole, S. (2021) Ten Years On - the Futuretrack Graduates. Coventry: Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick.
  • Purcell, K., Elias, P., Atfield, G, Kispeter, E., Day, R. and Poole, S. (2021) Covid 19 and graduate careers. Coventry: Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick.
  • Purcell, K, Elias, P., Atfield, G. and Kispeter, E. (2021) What a difference a year makes: the impact of Covid 19 on graduate careers. Coventry: Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick.
  • Purcell, K., Elias, P., Green, A., Mizen, P., Simms, M., Whiteside, N., Wilson, D., Robertson, A. and C. Tzanakou (2017) Present Tense, Future Imperfect? Young People's pathways into work. Coventry: Institute for Employment Research.
  • Purcell, K. and C.Tzanakou (2016) ‘Life after Higher education: the diversity of opportunities and obstacles in a changing graduate labour market’, in J.Cote and A.Furlong (eds) Handbook of the Sociology of Higher Education . London: Routledge.
  • Purcell, K. and P. Elias 2015) Does Britain have too many graduates?, December
  • Koene, B. and K. Purcell (2013) 'The value of relationships in transactional labour markets: constructing a market for temporay employment', Revista Latinoamericana di Estudios del Trabajo. Issue 30.
  • Purcell, K,. Elias, P., Atfield, G., Behle, H., Ellison, R , Luchinskaya, D. (2013) 'Transitions into employment, further study and other outcomes, The Futuretrack stage 4 Report', Manchester/Coventry: HECSU/Warwick Institute for Employment Research.
  • Elias, P. and K Purcell (2012) ''Higher Education and Social Background' in Understanding Society Findings 2012, p.23 - 24,', Editors: Editors: Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  • Elias, P. and Pucell, K. (2012) 'Classifying graduate occupations for the knowledge society: SOC(HE) 2010', Futuretrack Working paper No. 5 Institute for Employment Research.
  • Atfield, G., Green, A., Purcell, K., Staniewicz, T., and Owen, D. (2011) 'The impact of student and migrant employment on opportunities for low skilled people', Evidence Report 32.

All publications

All conference presentations

Research Degrees Supervised

  • Graduates in UK small businesses: What is the extent of graduate skill utilisation? (Daria Luchinskaya) , Date of Completion: 2014
  • The Utilisation and Contribution of Graduate Returnees in China: A comparative study in state-owned and multi-national financial organizations (Di Zhang), Date of Completion: 2013
  • The early career paths of Greek doctoral graduates of science and engineering who have studied in Greece and UK and their integration in the Greek labour market (Charoula Tzanakou), Date of Completion: 2012

Other information




Kate Purcell

Emeritus Professor

Institute for Employment Research
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL

Tel: +44(0) 2476 523288
Kate dot Purcell at warwick dot ac dot uk

whitelogo.gif (PDF Document) Futuretrack Stage 4: transitions into employment, further study and other outcomes